On the Rosa Luxemburg Conference and Inge Viett (Christian Klar, January 2011)

In Europe, there has been wave after wave of economic crises, and the masses are feeling the repercussions. Social protest is growing—massively in places like Greece, France, and Spain. Since the 2008 international financial crisis, the capitalist social order is no longer an unquestioned framework in the general public’s discussions. Obviously, with major contradictions like these, the need to organize mass protest and to conduct it politically and strategically has become apparent.

There is a historic aspect to this moment, because the development of the crisis opens doors, and the outcome is largely dependent on the subjective capacity of the oppressed classes—on their consciousness of the situation and their degree of organization. Those above have no new options to offer, so if those below have had enough, the time is ripe for major change.

Given the possibilities the current historic moment offers, and the concomitant need for political leadership, there are, in a certain sense, encumbrances to be shed. For example, there are the numerous forms of institutionalized class struggle in Europe, including organized forms of revisionism, their ideologies and their figureheads, along with the burden that weighs down the radical left-wing groupuscules, including their informal poobahs, who have used the free hand they have had to establish themselves as false prophets and gurus.

The annual Rosa Luxemburg Conference is the German left’s major forum for discussing the political issues of the day. This year, speaking of the developed capitalist countries, Gáspár Miklós Tamás, the Hungarian philosopher and politician, said that the time is ripe: “It’s too late to hope to cooperate with the bourgeois forces to salvage bourgeois democracy.” A veteran of the German urban guerilla was also invited to share the podium, where she seized the opportunity to claim that she was in a position to provide the answers to the major questions about revolutionary organizing. She shared her vision with Rosa Luxemburg Conference.

Her proposals received the support of the people who had invited her to participate in the discussion. The only goal of revolutionary strategy is to support the emancipation of the oppressed. That includes those who have been cheated by the servants of the political class, and whose survival, as their sound instincts tell them, depends on the integrity of those who propose strategies based on the lives of the oppressed: Are they motivated by a commitment to political goals, or are they more interested in playing a particular role?

The way Inge Viett has presented herself since her release from prison is informed by the economic cycles of the left-wing market. She assembled her image bit by bit, and it’s a sham. When evaluating it, you cannot just shrug off her service to the ruling class, especially given how useful it proved to be. Her contemporaries who recognize the current possibility for revolutionary change, and who are in a position to critically address the inherent contradictions, must do so in a timely fashion. Anyone who knows Inge Viett’s history, including her behavior underground, while in prison, and in court, shouldn’t just find her shameless certainty that she will be taken at her word inappropriate—it should put them on their guard.

In early 1997, Inge Viett was released from prison after six-and-a-half years. Her phenomenally short time in prison was the result of a crown witness reduction for statements she made to the BKA and in court. It was her lawyer who requested crown witness status. This is how the August 2, 2010, Spiegel recently described Viett: “It’s true that (over the course of the RAF’s history) a good dozen ex-terrorists talked, although until Peter-Jürgen Boock and Inge Viett, they were all minor figures.” The files, her sentence, Inge Viett’s books, and her appearance in various left-wing scenes show us a woman with many faces. The facts are not terribly elusive. However, a number of annoying organizations would rather sit on their asses than change, and they prefer an icon who promises a whiff of the outlaw and the struggle. This need seems to be so widespread in the left-wing market that earlier public statements from the left that called for a discussion were simply trashed or dismissed as “old stories.”

No one wants to search out the facts behind her “moment of weakness,” or breakdown, in prison. It’s as if the nature of the deal, the underlying reasoning, and everything else were simply a matter of “weakness.” Whereas in reality they expose someone with a long political history and a good deal of experience, but who has no scruples when it comes to revolutionary commitment and political convictions. It’s because she wanted to cut her prison time short, while continuing to play a role on the left, that Inge Viett arrived at the idea of not providing information about the role of other members of the underground organizations in actions, but instead chose to focus “solely” on MfS officers.

Over the course of its history, the RAF occasionally had contact with officials from the GDR; especially in the early eighties, when the GDR took in some former RAF members and provided them with new identities. To a limited degree, the relationship also had a technical side. In that connection, to make it possible for the West German legal system to lay charges against these GDR officials for supporting RAF actions, Inge Viett fudged the dates of some shooting practice in the GDR.[1] She provided the West German state the means to criminalize the GDR and provided state security with an ideological angle from which to negatively frame the RAF’s history. Inge Viett’s statements were based on a calculated assessment of the West German left’s traditional anti-communism. The political tragedy in this case is that the West German left could be counted on to condone hanging the “Stasi people” out to dry, and that’s what made Viett appear useful. At the same time as she did this, she was beginning to formulate her story about her personal positive experience of the GDR.

In the verdict of the Koblenz Land Court of Appeal on August 26, 1992, which came into force in May 1993, the court took note of Viett’s statements from January 14 and 25, 1991, as well as other statements from the trial in which she named RAF people and MfS officers. On the basis of her statements, warrants were issued in March 1991 for seven former MfS people. The court also specifically acknowledged the propaganda value of her statements for potentially “destabilizing” the prisoners from the RAF and the people underground.

One person with so many faces: in court, the crown witness proclaiming the error and insanity of armed struggle; to promote her book, the talk-show face she wore when she was released; for the German Communist Party and the East German left, a celebration of the GDR, acknowledgement that armed struggle lacked a mass base, and lip service to communism; for the radical left-wing scene, a song and dance about being unbroken and unapologetic.

Why isn’t this yesterday’s news? The course of history, much of which points to barbarism, was discussed at the Rosa Luxemburg Congress, as were alternatives. The proletariat may well be resigned, submissive even, and it has let itself be strung along for far too long. However, its questions about the integrity of the people who present a revolutionary perspective are valid; these questions are directly connected to its capacity to overcome the old order. In today’s world of public opinion and political machinations, having a role and an image is perfectly normal, and that includes “entirely normalized deception,” something that Inge Viett energetically lashes out against, even as she wears it like a second skin.

Christian Klar

  1. For more information, see For Us It Was a Question of Learning Explosives and Shooting Techniques (Helmut Pohl Interviewed by the Frankfurter Rundschau), http://germanguerilla.com/1991/07/07/for-us-it-was-a-question-of-learning-explosives.